Tabin Wildlife Resort @ Sabah, Malaysian Borneo – Part 1

Written by @Lan & @Joehairie 
3D2N Tabin Wildlife Safari-Our Travel Journal Part 1 of 2

Tabin Wildlife Resort is located within Tabin Wildlife Reserve which has a total land area of 300,000 acres. It is the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia, gazetted in 1984 for the Sumatran rhinoceros and part of the reserve is surrounded by oil palm plantations. The resort is about one and half hour drive from Lahad Datu, a town that is located in the east coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.


We were privileged to have the opportunity to visit this resort and prior coming, we were made to understand there is a possibility that we won’t be able to directly see animals such as Borneo pygmy elephant, Bornean rhinoceros and many more. Given the fact that Tabin Wildlife Reserve area is vast, it will pretty much depends on our luck. The animals live in the wilderness; roaming around and only time will tell when they will ‘show up’ in places nearby to the resort.


Getting to Lahad Datu


On 28 September 2018, we took an evening flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu so that we’re able to catch the early morning flight to Lahad Datu, scheduled at 6.10am the next day. The route from Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu is operated by MASwings using their Aerospatiale/Alenia ATR 72. Guests wishing to visit Tabin Wildlife Resort will be advised to opt for the 6.10am or 9.40am flights.


The resort have their own office at Lahad Datu airport, accessible after exiting the arrival hall. Registered guests will have someone waiting for them outside the arrival hall and will be brought to the office for registration/check-in purpose. There will be no check-in at the resort as everything will be taken care of at the airport’s office.


In our own case, Max was the person who met us at the arrival hall and brought us to the office to meet Daisy. Max was also our driver. He took care of everything, including our oversized backpacks; which were directly taken to our room once we reached the resort. Daisy told us that it will be quite a ‘journey’, a bumpy ride to be precise, halfway to the resort. She insisted that we have our breakfast, to which we declined as we have already did.


True indeed, halfway we were on gravel road but it didn’t bother us as we were pretty excited! That said, we are truly amazed to know that some guests do opt for the Cycle@Tabin programme. This group of guests will cycle all the way to the resort! About 10km from the resort, we reached Tabin Wildlife main gate and we asked Max to stop for a while. He gladly ‘approved’ our request and he shared some valuable information about Tabin Wildlife Reserve.


We took the opportunity to take as many photos as possible, realizing the fact that it might take some time for us to return here. We especially love the wooden pillars on both side of the main gate. Those images of elephant, sun bear and wild boar got us excited as we realized we’re now entering a place that actually belongs to the wild animals, not the humans.


The resort’s signboard is located right after the second gate where a guard religiously monitor every vehicle coming in and out of the resort. We were told that walk-ins are not really welcomed here, guests must register in advance in order to stay at this resort.


Going to the resort from the second gate will take guests to see two wooden swings, not far from Trogon Hall and Eagle’s nest. It is worth mentioning here that the resort is able to accommodate around 40 guests at a time. There will always be a particular space for each guest to have quiet time, seeing no crowd at all; except during meals at Sunbird Cafe.


Coming in to the resort, one will get to see some River Lodges on the left and again most of the time, other guests are invisible, they are nowhere to be seen as they are obviously on their own adventure with their personal guides! The get-to-know each other session will be during meals or in the late evening where some guests chill-out at the Cafe.

The resort’s main building houses the Sunbird Cafe, Hunter’s place (Lounging area), information board, rubber boots and life jackets station, administration office as well as a souvenir shop. Arriving guests will be brought directly to the cafe for briefing while their bags will be taken straight to their respective rooms by housekeeping staff.


We were escorted to our own dining table, yes you read it right; each room will be given a specific table at the cafe and it will be your own table up to the minute you are about to check-out from the resort! There is no such thing as looking for empty dining table here at this resort! Delicious, refreshing chilled lemon grass is the welcome drink here plus cold towels and that wreath.


Fadli (left) and Rafel (Right)

Our guides during our stay at Tabin Wildlife Resort were Fadli and Rafel. They were in charge to arrange and guide us in all the outdoor activities. Rafel is an experienced guide while Fadli is Rafel’s protege. Both were amazingly friendly and constantly shared valuable, detailed knowledge in regard to the wildlife habitat at Tabin Wildlife Resort. Soon as we arrived, they briefed us on the activities for next 3 days.




There are two types of lodges available at Tabin Wildlife Resort namely; River Lodges (10 units) and Hill Lodges(10 units). While each lodge comfortably fit two pax, we were told that certain units are for three occupants.

River Lodge


View of Lodges from Lipad River’s bank

Walkway outside River Lodges


Balcony with view of Lipad River

Lipad River viewed from River Lodge’s balcony


River Lodge’s entrance


Twin Beds


Working desk and mirror


Complimentary bottled drinking water and torchlight for night walk. Available in all units including Hill Lodges. Smoking inside the room is not allowed.


Big Wardrobe


All lodges are equipped with air conditioner and ceiling fan

En suite Bathroom


Umbrella and Slippers

Hill Lodge


View of Hill Lodges


Walkway to Hill Lodges, accessible via resort’s main building


Wooden stairs leading to Hill Lodges


Queen Bed


Working desk


Complimentary bottled drinking water and torchlight for night walk. Smoking inside the room is not allowed. Umbrellas and slippers are available as well. 


Big wardrobe. To the left is unit’s entrance and to the right is the bathroom. The en suite bathroom is identical to bathrooms in River Lodges. 


View from Hill Lodges


Meals at Sunbird Cafe


Meals are included and at the time of writing, meals schedule are as follows:

Light Breakfast – 0600 HRS
Main Breakfast – 0800 HRS
Lunch – 1230 HRS
Tea Break – 1500 HRS
Dinner – 1930 HRS

Depending on the volume of occupancy at the resort, meals will either be in buffet or ala carte servings. Menu will be rotated daily and foods served are of  local, oriental as well as western options.


Although the cafe closed at 10pm, complimentary Coffee and Tea are served 24 hours. Guests are free to lounge at the cafe, sipping their preferred hot beverage while surfing internet. WiFi is available 24 hours (Only at the cafe). Selected alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks can be purchased from cafe’s counter during operation hours. The beverages served in buffets are cordial and iced water.


In addition to the foods served during breakfast, the live egg station will be opened for guests. Guests are free to choose their favourite from omelette to sunny side up, hard boiled egg and over-easy.

We’re satisfied with the quantity and quality of foods served in buffets during our stay. Foods were presented beautifully and more importantly, tasted delicious. All other guests regardless of nationalities were pleased with what they saw and consumed. Some even go for second and third. Guests at Tabin Wildlife Resort are indeed well fed!


Around the resort

During free time, there are some places that guests may wander around by themselves and enjoy the scenery. The nearby trails are however, off limits unless accompanied by the resort’s guides.


Walk leisurely on the hanging bridge!


Relax at the Hunter’s Place (Adjacent to Sunbird Cafe)

Animal 1

Animal 2

Animal 3

Walk around the resort’s complex and spot some wildlife in action!


Wait for the perfect timing to get great photos of the resort’s surrounding nature!


While you are busy wandering around, get the kids to do some Batik Painting (Fee Applies)


Chill out at the nearby mini waterfall-next to Hill Lodges

Read Part 2 HERE


Tabin Wildlife Resort
KM 49, Jalan Tungku, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia
Facebook: Click HERE
Website: Click HERE

HQ Office Address:
Lot 11-1, 1st Flr, Blk A, Damai Point, Jln Damai, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Telephone+6 088 267266
Facsimile+6 088 258266

Lahad Datu Office Address:
Lot GL 02 Arrival Concourse, Lahad Datu Airport, 91108 Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia.



We would like to thank Promenade Hotels and Resort, Tabin Wildlife Resort and Mr. Lawrence Chin for this golden opportunity; visiting Tabin Wildlife Reserve and gaining in-depth knowledge in regard to nature and conservation effort. We also would like to express our sincere gratitude to WebJet Australia, Malaysia Airlines (MasWings) and Enrich Malaysia Airlines for providing seamless travel all the way to Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. 



References/Useful Links

Bird list (2013). Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link)

Cuaron, A. D. (2000). A global perspective on habitat disturbance and tropical rainforest mammals. Conservation Biology, Vol. 14, No. 6. pp 1574-1579.

Daily Express (December 4, 2011). Tabin-the forest and the oil palm. Retrieved on Ocotber 8, 2018 from (Link).

Evon Foo (2016). Into the wild. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from  (Link to blog post)

Fiffy Hanisdah Saikim, AK Mohd Rafiq Bin AK Matusin, Norazah Mohd Suki & Mahadimenakbar Mohamed Dawood (2015). Tourists Perspective: Inclusion of Entotourism Concept in Ecotourism Activity. Retrieved on October3, 2018. (Link)

Henry Bernard, Esther Lonnie Baking, Hisashi Matsubayashi & Abdul Hamid Ahmad (2012). Records of Borneon felids in and around Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah,Malaysia. Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link to PDF)

Insect Listing (2013). Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link)

James G. Robins, Marc Ancrenaz, Jason Parker, Benoit Goossens, Laurentius Ambu & Chris Walzer (2013). The release of northeast Bornean orangutans to Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. Retrieved on October 2, 2018 from (Link to PDF)

Jason Bugay Reyes (2013). The Best of Tabin Wildlife Reserve 2013. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from (Link).

Murphy Ng (2013). Tabin, the Sanctuary of Borneo Wildlife. Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link to blogpost)

New Straits Times (January 7,2018). Survival of the endangered. Kristy Inus, Avila Geraldine & Olivia Miwil. Retrieved on October 8, 2018 from (Link)

Rhino Resource Center (2011). Borneo Rhino Sanctuary Programme in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Retrieved on October 6, 2018 from (Link to PDF).

The Guardian (8 December 2011). Australian woman killed by pygmy elephant. Retrieved on October 8, 2018 from (Link).

The Sabah Society (2011). Tabin Wildlife Field Trip 28-30 May, 2011. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from (Link)

The Star Online (2 June 2014). Raising hope for baby rhinos. Lim Chia Ying. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from (Link).

Tourism Malaysia (2018). 5 reasons to go wild at Tabin. Retrieved on October 6, 2018 from (Link).




2 thoughts on “Tabin Wildlife Resort @ Sabah, Malaysian Borneo – Part 1

Leave a Reply